tips for new dads
Labour & birth

Tips for new dads

How can you help support your partner through labour and the early days? Father-of-three Tom Evans provides some valuable advice.

Your baby’s birth

When it comes to helping your partner giving birth, you will need to be the carrier of everything, from bags and birth balls to the weight of expectations. Men can provide support at many levels. As you’ve seen on TV, you can help with massage, fanning her brow, helping with positions, bringing her drinks and snacks. You will need to sustain your energy throughout the night also, so remember to bring plenty of snacks, so you don’t have to go hunter-gathering when you are most needed by her side.

Support through contractions

During contractions, go with your partner’s energy and with whatever she needs at that moment. She might want to hold you, you to hold her or to stay back entirely. She will need you to trust her instincts – utterly. Birth happens more easily when the woman feels empowered. The more information you know, the better – so be ready to do the leg work and find answers to her questions. Try to leave your own anxiety outside. Adrenaline is contagious, so if your stress levels are high, she will start to get anxious too, and the adrenaline hormone halts labour. Dad needs to provide strength and support – not to add to stress and anxiety.

Empower your wife

The more empowered and trusting the woman is of herself, and of her ability to withstand pain, the less likelihood of a medicalised birth. Prepare for this – do antenatal classes or birth preparation classes to empower yourselves, such as Cuidiu antenatal classes or Gentlebirth. Remember that both men and women are designed to cope with the experience of birth since the beginning of time. Fathers bring a huge amount to the birth experience. You will never ever forget it – in every detail. It will likely be the most emotional experience of your own life. You will want to savour it forever. As well as being proud of your partner and baby, you will take pride in your achievement and your place in it all.

Help, we’re home now

1. Changing nappies are no bother once you’ve done a few. You’ll soon get the routine. Have your changing table, supplies and disposal system organised.

2. Set up online grocery shopping and home delivery. Most of the providers save ‘your favourites,’ so it gets easier and faster each time you shop.

3. Your partner will most likely be less available emotionally – be ready for that and cut her some slack. She may not want sex for weeks or months. Generally, it’s out for the first four to six weeks due to the risk of infection, bleeding, healing etc – depending on the birth. Don’t pressurise her – talk about it. Open communication is the key to building intimacy. There are other ways to reconnect – like holding, cuddling, chatting and sharing over a glass of wine when baby is asleep.

4. Sleep will be challenged. Sleep is fundamental. Sleeping patterns will be overturned. She will need to synchronise hers with the baby. Use the spare room or couch if your sleep is suffering.

5. Have lots of fun. Get on down there on the floor with the baby – it’s a great opportunity for a second childhood.

6. Look after your mental health. The first six months of each child’s life is very stressful for both parents. You need to be resourced and supported to withstand the stress and anxiety. Then you will be more available to support your partner and family.

7. Do not isolate yourself. You will need breaks also. We do not operate at our optimum when isolated. Keep in touch with friends and family, as sharing eases everything. Openness to support and asking for it are vital – for you both. Cuidiu offers women a fantastic way to meet others who are coping with exactly what you are – in a very easy relaxed way – at coffee mornings either in local cafés or someone’s home. For men, we don’t have the same ready-made solution available – so why not set up a dads group?

More like this:

Photographer captures shock of birth
Birth story: change of plan
My honest birth story

Ask Sarah

Q I’ve heard a lot about the Paleo diet and as I am very interested in reducing the amount of processed foods and grain based meals my family eats, we are considering following this diet. From what I read it seems to be a back-to-basics type of eating. Is a Paleo diet safe for children? My kids are aged seven and nine.

A The Paleo diet is one of the most fashionable diets around at the moment. It is also known as the ‘caveman diet’ and is based on cutting out processed foods, starchy foods like bread and potatoes and eating more meat, vegetables and fruit.
As fad diets go, it is not the worst but there are some good and bad sides to it. Reducing the amount of processed foods we eat is always a good idea and by doing that you will usually reduce the amount of fat, salt and sugar you eat, which is a good thing! The problem with the Paleo diet is that it also cuts out dairy (on the basis that cavemen didn’t drink milk) and this means that the diet is very low in calcium. For this reason it is really not suitable for children who do need a lot of calcium for growing bones. How did cavemen manage without dairy? They ate a lot more food than we do (up to 10,000 calories per day compared to the 2,000 most of us eat). By eating that amount of food they were able to pick up just enough calcium from green vegetables and seeds. To put it in perspective, you would need to eat 16 servings of broccoli a day to get all the calcium you need. This is easier to do if you eat 10,000 calories per day rather than 2,000.
The other problem with the paleo diet is that it is not entirely based in science. Many of the Paleo diets out there say you should not eat wheat, even though we know that cavemen did in fact eat wheat and other grains. These diets also don’t recommend that you eat blubber and the big lumps of fat that were also a large part of the caveman diet!
A final problem is that many Paleo diets encourage people to cut out beans and lentils and to get their protein from meat and fish instead. Many studies over the last few years are clear that eating too much animal protein is linked with more cancer and heart disease. Eating some vegetarian meals based on beans and lentils is a great way to get your protein without always going for meat.
Is this a diet we should follow? I think there is a lot we can learn from the Paleo diets. We could all do with eating less salt, sugar and processed foods and adding in more nuts and seeds as well as more vegetables. However, I think following a strict Paleo diet could lead to low levels of calcium and vitamin D and so it is not suitable for children or teens and adults would need to think about a calcium supplement.



Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….